ASTRA Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health

Oct 30 2014

13 organizations from Poland created a CEDAW Coalition to prepare an alternative report to the governmental report on the realization of the CEDAW Convention in 2011. The governmental report was not released until 2014. In 2013 the organizations were invited to the consultations on the governmental report but not many suggestions were taken into consideration and incorporated into the final version.

Poland was reviewed by the Committee at its 59th Session, on the 22nd of October. The representation of the CEDAW Coalition (6 persons) was present in Geneva at the session.

Oct 27 2014

Regional Beijing 20-Year Review Processes  - which involve the preparation of regional reports and the organization of regional intergovernmental meetings - are being undertaken in all five regions by the United Nations regional commissions: ‪#‎Beijing20 review meeting for the European region will take place in Geneva on 6-7 November and will be preceded by an NGO Forum organized by The NGO Committee on the Status of Women, Geneva.

To learn more about the NGO Forum click here.

For more information and documentation on the Beijing+20 Regional Review Meeting click here


Oct 22 2014

Written by Hillary Margolis

Poland is one of a select few countries in Europe where access to abortion remains extremely limited: it’s a crime to terminate a pregnancy except in cases of risk to the mother’s life or health, severe fetal abnormality, or rape. In Europe, only Ireland and Malta have more restrictive laws.

The United Nations has taken Poland to task for its abortion laws and practices, and is likely to do so again today. After a visit in 2009, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health called for the government to remove barriers to safe abortion. A UN expert body, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, also criticized Poland’s abortion record in 2007. At a meeting today with Polish officials, this committee will undoubtedly focus on the lack of progress on access to safe, legal abortion.

Local groups in Poland note that women seeking abortion face stigma, intimidation, and misinformation from healthcare providers and clergy. Poland’s “conscience clause” under article 39 of the Doctor and Dentist Professions Act is a particular concern. Medical personnel may decline to perform abortion on the grounds that it conflicts with their personal values or beliefs. The law states that personnel must refer a woman to an alternate doctor or facility where she has a real possibility of obtaining services, but local women’s groups report that such referrals are often not made.

The conscience clause seems to be gaining ground: in May 2014, 3,000 people, mainly medical professionals, signed a “Declaration of Faith” asserting the “primacy” of religious over state law and saying they consider abortion and other reproductive services to be against their faith. Poland’s Catholic bishops endorsed the declaration. Donald Tusk, then-prime minister, reminded Polish medical practitioners that the obligation to provide comprehensive health care supersedes individual beliefs.

Such comments are welcome but insufficient. Poland’s new prime minister, Ewa Kopacz, should act quickly to safeguard women’s access to safe and legal abortion, even with the “conscience clause” in force. The state should ensure availability of doctors who do not invoke the conscience clause, and monitor referrals to other providers by those who are unwilling to perform abortions. The government should also institute a clear and rapid appeals process for women denied abortion, as mandated by the European Court of Human Rights.

“Conscientious objection” should not mean the evisceration of women’s human rights.  

Source: Human Rights Watch

Oct 20 2014

The recent The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) report on the state of violence against women in the EU shows that at least 6% of Romanian women have suffered an act of sexual violence after the age of 15. In net numbers, over 600,000 women have been at some point in their life, victims of sexual violence. State authorities and the public opinion minimize the magnitude of the problem with much fewer cases a year undergoing prosecution. On average, no more than 450 cases of sexual violence a year, end up with a definitive court sentence involving jail time for the offender. Meanwhile, numerous women go through the thorny road of rape survival without any specialized help or support, as there are simply no such services available for victims.

Oct 17 2014

A growing number of Croatian hospitals are refusing to perform abortions, even though they are legal, because doctors refuse to conduct them for reasons of conscience.

Media in Croatia have reported that one of the main hospitals in Zagreb, the Hospital of “Sveti Duh”, ["Holy Spirit"] has stopped performing abortions even though terminations are within the law. Apparently, this clinic, which conducted 529 abortions as recently as 2013, is the fifth hospital in Croatia that has stopped performing abortions recently. Others are in the towns of Nasice, Vinkovci, Knin and Pozega, while in the biggest hospital in Split - the second city in Croatia - only one doctor now performs abortions. According to the research by the media, the problem is not the hospitals but the doctors. Reports say doctors are refusing to undertake the work for reasons of conscience. Some 66 per cent of doctors in Zagreb refuse this work, apparently. In Split, 95 per cent of medics have refused to take part in abortions for the same reasons of conscience. Abortion in Croatia is regulated on the basis of a law from 1978, which says abortions can be performed up until the 10th week of pregnancy. However, doctors have a discretionary right not to perform abortions if they maintain that life starts at the moment of conception. As a result, no sanctions may be taken against hospitals or doctors who decline to provide abortion services.


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